There is an early key scene in David Lynch’s Inland Empire. It is between one of several characters played by Laura Dern and another played by the great Grace Zabriskie. A neighbor has dropped in to introduce herself to her movie star neighbor. A bit uncomfortable, but friendly — Nikki invites the woman in for a cup of coffee. After the neighbor sips a bit, she begins to enquire about Nikki’s next movie role. A role that the neighbor feels Nikki has most certainly secured Though it is clear that Nikki is unaware she has been cast.
It only takes a few minutes before Ms. Zabriskie gets to the actual reason for her unannounced visit:
“Is there a murder in your film?”
“Uh, no. It’s not part of the story.”
“No, I think you are wrong about that.”
“Brutal fucking murder!“
“I don’t like this kind of talk; the things you’ve been saying. I think you should go now.”
“Yes. Me, I… I can’t seem to remember if it’s today, two days from now, or yesterday. I suppose if it was 9:45, I’d think it was after midnight! For instance, if today was tomorrow, you wouldn’t even remember that you owed on an unpaid bill. Actions do have consequences. And yet, there is the magic. If it was tomorrow, you would be sitting over there.”
Her finger points across the room. Laura Dern’s Nikki’s eyes turn following the direction of her neighbor’s finger. And with a turning pan of the cheap digital camera we and Nikki are transported to a different time. Maybe even a different side of reality. Maybe…
Way back in 2006 after experiencing David Lynch’s Inland Empire for the first time I wrote this:
Well, kids — I saw the new David Lynch movie today. Yes, INLAND EMPIRE is almost a full 3 hours of Lynchian assault.
Did I like it? Yes, I think I did. Actually, I may love it. I think I am still processing the experience. Trust me. This is a cinematic experience.
While I did find it a bit long, I was never bored. My eyes, ears and mind were stuck to the screen the entire duration. There were more than a few people in the audience who had seen it twice already. I have to agree with those audience members — this is a film which seems to require multiple viewings.
I am still trying to figure it all out in my head. What did all those symbols mean? Most importantly, what does it symbolize to have Nastassja Kinski sit on a sofa while Suicide Girl types dance and lip sync to the late/great Nina Simone? I guess she and them could symbolize a lot of things. And, why the Beck song?
Word to the wise: if you do see it — stay thru the final credits.
I love that the cinema in which I saw the movie was playing selections from the new Tom Waits compilation CD, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. This turned out to be quite right for setting the tiny San Francisco cinema’s atmosphere.
Hypnotic, oddly gorgeous, without linear thought/plot and featuring a brilliant performance from Laura Dern — INLAND EMPIRE is horrific, beautiful, confusing, perverse, sad, funny, lost and ultimately a brilliant cinematic slight of hand. If you like David Lynch you will not want to miss it. I plan on seeing it again with a couple of my pals.
Three years later, I wrote this:
David Lynch at his very best. This is the first film he has made which rivals the brilliance of Blue Velvet. Tho quite long, the movie is NOT dull.
Blessed with an incredible acting turn by Laura Dern who seems to be wandering through the consciousness of an actor in way over her head and possibly sharing that space with a demented film maker, INLAND EMPIRE is almost impossible to describe.
This experimental film shows how much a filmmaker can do with equipment available to all of us. It also serves as a reminder that just because we have access to the equipment — no one without such untethered genius can use it as well.
Sound and image have seldom merged better.
INLAND EMPIRE is a puzzle of a film that will be pulling in viewers for decades to come. Without question, this is an important film.
Not too long ago on Letterboxd I wrote:
One of my all-time favorite films is also one of the most experimental I’ve ever seen. This is a brilliant motion picture experience captured with cheap video cameras.
Interpretation is certainly open-ended. Even still, I’ve always viewed this as an actor who has lost her identity in a role.
But even more unsettling is the proposition that manipulation of “identity” could potential lead one into some horrific alternate realities. Are they real or are they each operating in some sort of parallel universe?
Best to just pretend you’re seated in dark cinema.
Turn out the lights. Turn up the volume. Just watch and listen. Allow Inland Empire to wash over you. As it does, you are probably going to discover some vague connection that is as surreal as the film itself.
If you are not someone who does not appreciates David Lynch, experimental art or if you’re afraid of the dark — do not even attempt to watch it.
Having recently watched Inland Empire the other night on a pristine German-imported blu-ray, the film remains fresh, disturbing and enigmatic as ever.
The film floods over me like some sort of brilliant wave of sound, paint and amplified humanity. I find it difficult to articulate what grabs me. But it grabs me every time I see it.
As someone who has dealt with panic attacks and disorientation, there is a spastic sort of resonation. However, this would be me, a member of the audience, projecting myself onto David Lynch’s carefully crafted and often grubby Epic of Surreal Cinematic Masterpiece.
Yes, that is what I wrote. I used the “masterpiece” word. For me, Inland Empire is a cinematic masterpiece.
I refuse to be swayed.
It is filled with odd sort of “clues” that seem to dangle and blow like thin strings refusing to tie together.
The logic is circular and filled with menace.
There is more symbology going on than one can ever hope to rattle even with the sturdiest of sticks.
A meta-film to beat all meta. A cinematic experiment without a clearly stated thesis beyond the posters tagline: “A Woman In Trouble.”
As the woman (or women) in trouble, Laura Dern was given an amazing task as an actor. A task that she not only managed to achieve — Laura Dern rose above any sort of expectation. The lines between acting and reality are simultaneously drawn, twisted, subverted and blurred beyond recognition. Dern seems to literally become entwined with digital signals that form the movie itself. By stating this, I mean to write that this actress is not simply the focus of most of the film’s images — Laura Dern’s performance and presence folds into digital images that David Lynch’s cameras capture.
This performance even amps itself beyond Dennis Hopper’s brilliant turn in Blue Velvet. The only reason it has never been given similar credit is because of the often exasperating “lengths” to which Inland Empire stretches, bends, loops and merges to form and invert itself.
For various reasons, I’ve found myself spending time with this particular movie.
I have to confess I was relieved when viewings were no longer required. But with the arrival of this blu-ray, I jumped back into the surreal madness of Lynchian Vision. I did so without request or hesitation.
In the end, for me Inland Empire is a complex exploration of human identity. The identity of an artist who finds her non-professional actor’s life begins to morph, twitch, mingle and merge with those of her roles. So vested in her performance, the complexity of a new film’s character splinters into creation of multiple versions and films. The ultimate artistic nightmare.
Forever chasing her selves through horrific and dismal set-ups. Just as she might be about to latch on to the core of herself she is sent running after another lost figment. A rambling psychological, visceral, emotional and dangerous trap. Her identity becomes so fragmented and polarized that the audience shares in her existential conundrum.
I could not help but feel slightly alarmed when a person on Twitter, known as The Movie Shrink, sent me a link to a new viewpoint regarding a movie. The movie happened to be Inland Empire. @Plisskenboon’s translation of David Lynch’s strange epic is precise and self-assured.
I can’t state that I’m in full agreement, but it is an impressive deconstruction and evaluation of this Lynchian World that forever runs about within the confines of The Inland Empire. Um, yeah, it is a real place.
(You would be surprised how many people do not realize this.)
Check it out. …if you dare:
“This is a story that happened yesterday. But I know it’s tomorrow.”
Matty Stanfield, 11.20.15